The Autoimmune Warrior: Using Food As Medicine

“It was the first time I had been knocked down so hard by life I wondered if I would ever be able to get up again,” says Eileen Laird of waking up in excruciating pain.

It was 2012.  Laird, age 43 at the time, was hit almost overnight with the sudden onset of rheumatoid arthritis and saw her whole world turn upside down.  One day she was out hiking and enjoying the outdoors, the next she could barely walk across her kitchen.

“I didn’t know how I would survive it — except you don’t have a choice,” Laird says.  Feeling helpless and overwhelmed, she also found herself determined to find a way forward.   

On her website, www.phoenixhelix.com Laird writes:

The conventional medical treatment frightened me as much as the disease, so I sought another option. I am eternally grateful to the internet for putting information at our fingertips and allowing me to read about the GAPS , Paleo & Wahls diets. They taught me how to use food as medicine. Before then, I had daily joint flares that were excruciating, disabling and frightening. After just one week on the diet, my flares began to lessen. 1 year later, my flares were gone.

She now focuses on the paleo lifestyle and has written an e-book called: A simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.

The protocol includes:

-No processed foods.

-Raw honey is the only sugar used.

-Grain-free.

-No legumes.

-No soy

-No dairy  

-No refined cooking oils.

Laird eats huge quantities of vegetables and says healthy fats were essential in her healing process.  Also, Laird puts heavy focus on foods that aid in digestion like kombucha.

She also writes a lot about attitude, self-love, and sleep — something that has been getting quite a bit of press recently.  Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post has a new book out titled, “The Sleep Revolution” and has been traveling the country encouraging people to make sleep a priority.  Huffington says it will help keep you productively focused during the work day so you can enjoy every moment of downtime while bettering your mood.

“It is such perfect timing for her to have that book out,” Laird comments.  “I think she can’t be more right.  Research is very clear that sleep is directly related to inflammation.  And it makes sense, our bodies regenerate, heal and repair while we are sleeping.  So the less we are sleeping, the less we are giving our bodies a chance to do that.”

All of this, for Laird, was part of putting together the pieces of a healing puzzle in the days and months that followed the onset of her autoimmune disorder.

“You are stronger than you realize,” she says.  “One thing that automatically happens when you go through something really hard, whether physical or emotional, it is incredible strengthening.  That’s why I have the Phoenix on my website.”

She is careful, however, not to say that she is cured of rheumatoid arthritis — rather she refers to it now as a whisper in the body as opposed to a scream.

But it is remarkable to think that four years ago Eileen Laird awoke in a state of panic.  She describes moments where she was crawling on the floor sobbing, wondering if she would ever again function without pain.  

By educating and empowering herself, Laird has managed to turn it all around — one day at a time, one meal at a time.  “I have a wonderful life now, even though is not the same one I had before.”

Laird has grown an audience through blogging, writing and sharing what she has learned on her journey using food as medicine. She lives in a small town in North Carolina, but has built a global community of like-minded people who focus on the paleo lifestyle.  Her “tribe” as she calls them.

“I’m in a touch with a global community of people doing the same thing.  By starting my blog and podcast, I got to get in touch with thousands of people who are doing it.  And it makes you feel a lot less alone.”

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